On October 31, a dark, undecorated house might be a sign of folks who just aren’t into Halloween. But the house might also belong to someone who isn’t allowed to participate in the holiday. A growing number of states are making Halloween particularly tricky for registered sex offenders. Whether through legislation or heightened surveillance, individuals with the “sex offender” label may be banned from decorating their houses, answering the knocks of trick-or-treaters, or even being at a residence where candy is handed out. Some states, including Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, place specific restrictions on all registered sex offenders, while others, like Florida and Georgia, only target offenders on parole or in conditional release programs.
Read more. [Image: Gary Cameron/Reuters]
Conspiracy to commit burglary, burglary, and attempted theft.
Those charges hardly seem to do justice to the inventiveness of claiming sovereignty over an unoccupied Bethesda mansion on behalf of the Moorish American nation. Yet these are some of the criminal acts of which Lamont M. Butler-El, also known as Lamont Maurice Butler, was convicted last month in Montgomery Circuit Court.
Since it was first reported in The Washington Post, Butler-El’s case has drawn a mix of outrage and amusement with most commentators emphasizing the outlandish nature of his actions and the even more peculiar quality of his legal rationale. One news outlet summed up the more general response when it named this the “weirdest defense strategy of the year—or possibly the century.”
Butler-El’s actions—claiming huge swathes of territory based on precarious judicial logic—are certainly strange and were understandably ruled illegal. Yet in staking out his rights to these 35,000 square feet of Moorish American territory in the way he did, Butler-El drew directly from a playbook for sovereignty claims that was used by Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and a host of lesser known explorers, adventurers and settlers.
Butler-El didn’t attempt to seize the property in question, a $6 million 12-bedroom, 17-bathroom estate, by slipping through a hole in the fence. Instead, on December 17 last year, he presented himself before the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation to demand that the records be altered to reflect the fact that he was assuming ownership as a representative of the so-called Moorish Nation of Northwest Amexem, North America, an imagined community that supposedly predated both the modern United States and European colonization of the Americas. Some weeks later on January 3, he employed a similarly bold strategy when questioned by his new neighbors, who had noticed unexpected activity on the property. His response was a detailed “history lesson” that was repeated to police officers arriving on the scene two days later.
Read more. [Image: Prince Georges County Police, Wikimedia Commons]